FCC Revokes China Telecom’s Authority to Provide Communications in the U.S.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 | Comments

The FCC adopted an order ending China Telecom (Americas) ability to provide domestic interstate and international telecommunications services within the United States.

The order on revocation and termination directs China Telecom Americas to discontinue any domestic or international services that it provides pursuant to its section 214 authority within 60 days following the release of the order. Promoting national security is an integral part of the commission’s responsibility to advance the public interest, and the action carries out that mission to safeguard the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure from potential security threats, the FCC said.

Based in part on the recommendation of the executive branch agencies, the commission found that China Telecom Americas failed to rebut the serious concerns of the executive branch about its continued presence in the United States. In December 2020, the Commission launched a proceeding and established a process that allowed for China Telecom Americas, the executive branch agencies and the public to present any remaining arguments or evidence in the matter.

Based on the extensive unclassified record alone, the commission’s public interest analysis found that the present and future public interest, convenience and necessity is no longer served by China Telecom Americas’ retention of its section 214 authority.

The order finds that China Telecom Americas, a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned enterprise, is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight.

Second, given the changed national security environment with respect to China since the commission authorized China Telecom Americas to provide telecommunications services in the United States almost two decades ago, the order found that China Telecom Americas’ ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks by providing opportunities for China Telecom Americas, its parent entities, and the Chinese government to access, store, disrupt and/or misroute U.S. communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States.

The order also found that further mitigation would not address these significant national security and law enforcement concerns.

The order also found that China Telecom Americas willfully violated two of the five provisions of a 2007 letter of assurances with the executive branch agencies, compliance with which is a condition of its international section 214 authorizations.

Finally, the order found that classified evidence submitted by the executive branch agencies further supports the decisions to revoke the domestic authority and revoke and terminate the international authorizations issued to China Telecom Americas, and the determination that further mitigation will not address the substantial national security and law enforcement risks.

To assist U.S. customers with transitioning to other mobile service providers as a result of China Telecom Americas’ discontinued services, the FCC will issue a consumer guide after the order is released that explains this action and what other options consumers might consider for mobile services.

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